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Dive Review of Chris Sawyer in
Virgin Islands

May, 2004, an Instant Reader Report by Dee Mickey, AL, USA
Report Number 1129
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Reporter and Travel
Dive Experience
51-100 dives
Where else diving
Bonaire, Thailand, Puerto Rico
Closest Airport
Getting There


Dive Conditions

sunny, windy, rainy, cloudy  
calm, choppy  
Water Temp
80   to 83    Fahrenheit  
Wetsuit Thickness
Water Visibility
40   to 80    Feet  
Dive Policy
Dive own profile
Enforced diving restrictions  
Nitrox Available?
What I saw
Whale Sharks
Ratings 1 (worst)- 5 (best):
  4 stars
Tropical Fish
5 stars  
Small Critters
  5 stars
Large Fish
3 stars  
Large Pelagics
  3 stars
Underwater Photography  1 (worst)- 5 (best):
Subject Matter
Boat Facilities
Overall rating for UWP's  
Shore Facilities  
Ratings and Overall Comments  1 (worst)- 5 (best):
3 stars
3 stars
Service and Attitude
3 stars
Environmental Sensitivity  
Dive Operation
3 stars  
Shore Diving  
3 stars  

Overall Rating

Value for $$
5 stars   
3 stars    
[None]This was our third bareboat charter in the Virgin Islands. While we
rented tanks, pelicans and weights from Chris Sawyer, we were on our own
for all but a couple dives. This is the trip where you are captain, dive
master, crew and diver. Its complete freedom and total responsibility.
(There are options: One can charter with a captain and crew. Dive
operations will meet your bareboat and take you to diving.)

Power and sailing yachts are available from several marinas on St. Thomas
and Tortola. The Sir Francis Drake Channel is about 35 miles long, mostly
protected from open seas, and one is always within sight of land. We spend
most of our time in the BVIs and there are several dive shops for air
fills. We rent 2 tanks each, and plan the itinerary around air fill
locations, dive sites and water fill stations for the boat, and of course
the winds. This in not cushy divingnot only do you lug tanks, but you
wrangle all your gear on board as well. For refills, that means either
docking & hauling tanks or putting all the tanks in the dinghy to take
them ashore.

You pick the dive sites, you navigate, you assist the other divers, and you
truly perfect your skills. There are a few dive books that give you site
maps. The dive shops are also great about sharing site info. In the BVIs
there is a great dive site mooring system. In the USVI, its not as
reliable. Almost all dive sites are 40 to 60 feet deep, with little
current. The wind and seas determine the calmer sites. If you want to dive
in 5 foot seas, you have the opportunity. If you want calm water, just go
to the lee. Visibility is a minimum 40 to 60 feet. This spring was record
rainfall and a record low temp of 70 degrees in St. Thomas; the viz was
lower due to runoff.

The reefs are healthy, there are lots of fish in most places, and there are
few divers. We leave our mooring at 7 a.m. and head to a dive site. That
puts us there ahead of the commercial boats. Were leaving the dive site
when they arrive & were on the next site about 11. When we finish
there, we head to the overnight mooring and dive shop for refills. There
are lots of great snorkel sites, too. If everyone in our group wants to
dive a site, we go in 2 shifts so someone is on the boat at all times.
Topside crew is on bubble watch and ready with the dinghy for the
navigationally challenged or anyone who needs help. Other than the Baths,
the Rhone and the Caves, a site is crowded if there are two other boats.
Many sites have only one mooring, so unless someone anchors, which we
strongly discourage for the sake of the reef, its all yours.

This year we saw squid almost everywhere. Rays were abundant, including
what must have been a 10 foot ray sleeping in the sand under our boat at
The Baths. We had a rare opportunity to dive Eagle Shoal, an open water
site that is often too rough. The schools of fish were incredible, the
topography of the site truly awesome. Another favorite is Alice in
Wonderland, also open to the southern sea and often rough. All the sites at
the Dogs are great; we saw a slipper lobster there this year. We often find
snorkel sites are like nurseries with baby fish of many species. However,
on one snorkel we found ourselves with 3 barracuda and 11 tarpon, all in
the 4 to 6 foot size. 

We provision ourselves, and plan all meals aboard except about half the
dinners and a couple lunches. We moor a couple of days at the Bitter End to
allow crew a shore day, everyone on their own. We often dive with
Kilbrides to explore new sites. Ten days on a boat can test relationships,
so pick your group carefully. Everyone is assigned a job and cooking tasks
are shared.

In May the area is not crowded. There are small grocery stores throughout
the islands, and a little shopping. Its a low-key vacation, reasonably
priced, and an easy plane ride from the east side of the US. We prefer to
leave St. Thomas, the cruise ships and shoppers behind and head to the
small islands. 
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Other dive reports on Chris Sawyer Diving Center

All Virgin Islands Dive Reviews and Reports
Diving Guide to Virgin Islands
Diving Reviews for All Dive Destinations

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Note: The information here was reported by the author above, but has NOT been reviewed nor edited by Undercurrent prior to posting on our website. Please report any major problems by writing to us and referencing the report number above.

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